The dialogue with the speakers started: I mapped useful frequencies and the resulting range was from 2 to 16 Hertz, corresponding to the frequencies where the speakers would respond to signals by moving effectively in silence. Below 2Hz the movement was too slow to be visually meaningful in this context, and above 16 hertz one started to perceive a "proto-sound". I also trialed various loudspeaker designs and models, as well as amplifiers.
As the trials evolved, I developed a repertoire of effective waveforms and frequencies, adapted to the speaker that had the most visually engaging response. The speakers were multiplied, first up to five speakers. A technique for composing sub-audio waveshapes and patterns was developed, using max/MSP and standard digital audio workstation technology. With these tools, it became possible to "write" movement for an array of speakers, and systematically experiment with rhythms and patterns, as well as different compositional figures such as unisonos and solos in the movement domain.
Further exploration was made in cooperation with the choreographer Satu Tuomisto, who's input involved translating choreographic vocabulary of human group movement composition to the speakers: subdivisions into smaller groups, counterpoints and dramaturgy between stillness and movement.
I was then proposed to exhibit the loudspeaker installation at the Tampere Biennale, within a large space at the Galleria Himmelblau. The availability of an almost-monumental space brought the need for scaling up the piece. From 5 speakers the installation passed to 32 speakers, with a custom-made 12 meters long table by Juhana Nyrhinen. Further funding was sought and granted, enabling favourable economic conditions for upscaling the piece. "Motet" found its final form through the set up at Galleria Himmelblau, as documented in the video on top of this page.
Bricolage of art and technology
The process of "Motet" stems from a technological incident towards an established sound art installation. In Lévi-Strauss' terms: the work proceeds from objects and events towards structure.
The founding moment is the appearance of a salient, unexpected behaviour in a familiar object. With dismay and amusement, I would then replicate the behaviour, investigate its nature and scope, "discover what it could signify" (Lévi-Strauss, 1966), with a firm intuition that the event is poetically pregnant.
Motivated by the initial discovery, I then set off to structure the objects (loudspeakers) and events (kinetic behaviour) into a meaningful structure - a sound art installation. The process is guided by the physical characteristics and constraints of the speakers, amplifiers and software, I found myself to personify Lévi Strauss' bricoleur, who "speaks with things" as well as "through things", "giving an account of his personality through the choices he makes between the limited possibilities" (ibid.).
For "Motet", there was no initial vision, sketch or plan for a piece, just a fortuitous incident setting off a process. The piece grew from the events and materials available, their inherent constraints and possibilities, favourable economic conditions, a possibility to expose at a festival, as well as through cooperation. At the heart of this process is an attitude attuned to working in dialogue with the situation, which finds full resonance with Lévi-Strauss' concept of resonance.
Upon the opening of the exhibition at the Tampere Biennale, it became obvious that the bricolage would continue on the reception side of the piece. The array of silent, "dancing" loudspeakers became the canvas where the public would project their imagination, some seeing breathing, human organs, robots, specific meaningful moments (like the memory of being hospitalised that one member of public brought up). The result of the my bricolage - a structured set of events and objects - would spark up structures of meaning in the public, fulfilling Lévi-Strauss' definition of bricolage: "the signified changes into the signifying, and vice versa" (ibid.).